New omicron variants

It’s now ‘highly unlikely’ that our next variant of concern will be as a result of Omicron – Photo: Flickr

Scientists have GOOD NEWS about South Africa’s ‘next variant of COVID’

The experts have spoken: Despite the emergence of ‘new Omicron strains’ in SA, scientists remain relaxed about our next variant of COVID.

New omicron variants

It’s now ‘highly unlikely’ that our next variant of concern will be as a result of Omicron – Photo: Flickr

We’ve spent two years dreading the impact that new COVID mutations can have on us all. But, as our response to the pandemic evolves, so does our understanding about the next variant that arises.

Will the next variant of COVID cause a new wave?

Earlier this week, it was revealed that two sub-lineages of Omicron – BA.4 and BA.5 – were spreading across South Africa. However, the experts have said there’s no need to panic. These particular strains have been with us for over a month, and no rise in hospitalisations or deaths have been noted.

Mia Malan is the editor of health journal Bhekisisa. She posted an informative thread to Twitter on Wednesday, outlining what the next variant of COVID will look like in South Africa. According to the esteemed medical professional, Omicron is unable to generate a mutation that could ‘spark another COVID wave.

“Can one of the current subvariants of Omicron potentially cause a new wave? Unlikely… they’re too similar to Omicron, and are unlikely to be able to get around the immunity Omicron infection generates.”

“No other variant of concern (VOC) emerged as a recombination or sub-variant of past variants. While this could be different now, it is unlikely that this will change. So, if the next VOC does come to exist, it will have to be through an independent evolutionary lineage.”

Mia Malan

Omicron mutations ‘unlikely to trigger virus resurgence’

The fact that Omicron doesn’t have the fangs to go any further than it already has done is a source of comfort to us all. Granted, the next variant would have to be something completely different from Omicron, and that poses a challenge to the global scientific community. But for now, the virus appears to be in a ‘holding pattern’.

Next variant of COVID ‘is not yet with us’

Reassurances have also been provided by Professor Salim Abdool Karim. As one of the leading authorities on COVID in this country, his call to ‘mostly ignore the hype around sub-variants’ should be heeded by us all. In his words, no sequences currently in existence ‘are likely to cause the next wave’.

“You can mostly ignore the hype surrounding sub-variants and recombinants as potential causes of the next wave. Right now, there are no publicly available COVID sequences that look like they will lead to a next wave.”

Professor Abdool Karim